Council bickers over officer eligibility

Last updated: January 17. 2014 10:32AM - 6509 Views
By - bshiles@civitasmedia.com

Lesaundri Hunt
Lesaundri Hunt
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PEMBROKE — A movement to recall Lumbee Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks continues with one of the people spearheading the effort projecting it could happen in April.

Eric Locklear, a self-proclaimed community activist, updated council members Thursday on the efforts of a recently formed nonprofit that is collecting donations to finance a recall election.

Locklear said that a public outcry is growing for a recall of the chairman as a result of Brooks recently being found guilty in Lumbee Supreme Court on six contempt of court charges. Also, action brought by Brooks against him in the North Carolina court system is an attack against the tribe’s sovereignty, Locklear said.

“Self-determination is the heart of our being,” Locklear said. “Saying that we are not autonomous hits at the heart of not just Lumbees, but at the heart of all Indian people.

“Having a state court ruling on file where North Carolina has interceded into tribal governance is a clear and present danger to the Lumbee, our full federal recognition effort and our way of life,” Locklear said. “Having contempt for and endangering the Lumbee way of life are even more reasons for the Lumbee to constitutionally recall Brooks.”

Locklear said that, according to the tribe’s constitution, only the 5,000 or so people who voted in the November 2012 Lumbee tribal election, can vote in the recall election that he insists can be held on or around April 1. First, Locklear told the council, 20 percent of those November voters must sign a petition requesting a recall election. Then 30 percent of those voters must cast ballots in the recall.

According to Locklear, tribal members throughout all of the tribe’s 14 districts are working to contact the people eligible to cast ballots in a recall election. He estimates that the election will cost $30,000, all of which must come from donations.

Locklear said that a newly formed nonprofit, The Lumbee Revolution, has been created to collect all donations.

“History will surely record that these are the darkest moments of Lumbee tribal governance and the brightest moments for the Lumbee people.” Locklear said.

According to Locklear, Brooks by his actions has become a “clear and present danger to the tribe.”

Brooks was elected to complete the remaining one year of former Chairman Purnell Swett’s term after Swett resigned in May 2011 citing health concerns. Brooks was then elected to his own three-year term in November 2012.

Peggy Jacobs, a tribal member from Fayetteville, was one tribal member who told council members Thursday that Brooks needs to be removed from office.

“He does what he wants to do,” Jacobs said. “He doesn’t follow any rules.”

A pledge by council members sworn-in on Tuesday to “work together in the best interest of the Lumbee people” was short lived as members clashed Thursday over the question of whether a new member can serve as a council officer.

After a heated debate, Lesaundri Hunt, who was elected by a 12 to 9 vote to serve as the council’s new speaker, tabled action on the appointment of a treasurer until a review of tribal laws and previous council actions concerning appointment of council officers and committee chairpersons can be reviewed. He said that the issue will be discussed during a tribal Housing Committee meeting on Feb. 4.

The question of eligibility to serve as a council officer was raised when Janie McFarland, a newly seated council member representing District 2, was nominated along with Councilman McDuffie Cummings, the council’s current treasurer, to serve as treasurer for the coming year.

Larry Townsend, the council’s new representative from District 6, argued that a March 21, 2013, resolution amending a previous law governing eligibility requirements for council officers does not specifically state that a first year council member cannot serve as a council officer.

“No where in the resolution does it say that a new council member cannot serve as an officer,” said Townsend, who shortly after the debate on officer eligibility requirements was elected by a vote of 12 to 9 to serve as the council’s parliamentarian. Townsend served on the 21-member council several years ago.

“This resolution concerns just committee chairs,” he said. “… This resolution passed 18 to zero on March 21st, 2013. It is not nebulous. It is very clear … Rules are rules. Are we going to pick how we are going to operate?”

William Maiden, whose District 13 encompasses Cumberland County, said that he has been on the council for three years and every year the issue of officer eligibility surfaces.

“We need to table this until we have all the facts,” he said.

Councilman Walter Lowery, of District 12, said that he believes a council member needs to acquire some experience before being placed in a leadership position. Lowery served on the council several years ago before being elected to his current term.

“I refused my first year back to take vice chair because there have been changes,” he said. “I didn’t feel that I had the knowledge of how the council is now run.”

But Jan Lowery, a new member representing District 7, argued that those members just coming onto the council have the knowledge and experience to serve immediately as officers.

“These people (new members) have the feel of the county, health care and education,” she said.

In addition to the speaker, council members on Thursday elected three other members to leadership positions. These include: Charles Bullard, District 5, vice chairman; Linda Revels, District 11, secretary; and Larry Townsend, District 6, parliamentarian.

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